In most businesses, social media starts its life in marketing. Tucked away in the corner, a Facebook page here or a Twitter account there, staffed during the lunch hour when your brand manager gets a moment, these efforts are truly grass roots.

But the levels of consumer use (and dare I say it, “love”) of social networks have dragged social media out of the corner desk into the corner office. These days, social isn’t so much about media as about business – and this shift has put social on the CEO radar.

But it is one thing to be “on the radar” and quite another to put “social business” into a context that works for your brand and for your organisation’s broader goals. Not only are CEOs exceptionally busy, so too are their direct reports – so making time for social media training, executive support or active participation can be a challenge.

All executives, however, understand the principle that CEOs set the culture that drives business results. And in an increasingly connected world, “social” is moving from a “nice to have” to a “game changer”. A recent study from IBM indicated that high performing companies are 30% more likely to identify “openness” (as characterised by social media) as a cultural driver.

Furthermore, with a vast pool of ready-to-harvest customer data available within enterprise systems – when coupled with the unstructured sea of social network information, 73% of CEOs are making significant investments in the area of analytics and customer insight.

SocialCEOsBut at the end of the day – how many CEOs are making a shift towards social at a personal or practical level? The 2012 Fortune 500 Social CEO Index indicates that 70% of CEOs have NO PRESENCE on social networks.

So it seems – that despite entrenched consumer and customer behaviour – businesses are lagging behind. And yet, CEOs like Rupert Murdoch and Meg Whitman are embracing – albeit experimentally – and building large personal audiences and direct connections to their business stakeholders. Are they anomalies or the very beginning of a trend? For while 70% of CEOs have no presence, 30% do. And that means, according to the theory of diffusion of innovations we are already into the “early majority” audience.

And that to me is the key.

We don’t need to see the volume now – we just need to see the trend. And it smells like disruption to me.

2012-Social-CEO-Index-Infographic